In this guide to the best kamado grills, we review some of the top models on the market, a hand picked selection of eight of the most popular, advanced and proven models for your consideration.
We’ll also talk about the pros and cons of cooking on a Kamado, what you can expect from the experience, and of course what to look for in such a quality grill, so by the end of the article you’ll know which is the best kamado grill for you.
No matter what your hobby or passion may be, there almost always comes a time when you want to take it to the next level.
The outdoorsy types get a longer trailer, photographers snag a bigger lens, model railroaders build a mountain. So what do grillers do?
Well, many head out to the store and pick up a big and shiny new outdoor kitchen. Others take up the fine art of making charcuterie. For some, however, the solution is to buy a Kamado grill.
If you’re considering making the jump and going Kamado, we’ve put together the following comprehensive buyers guide that you’ll definitely want to look over.
At a Glance: Our Top 8 Choices for Best Kamado Grill
- Top Pick: Kamado Joe Line of Ceramic Kamado Grills
- Runner Up: Primo Oval Kamado Grill
- Premium Pick: Komodo Kamado
- Weber Summit Charcoal Grill
- BBQ Guru Monolith Ceramic Grill with Digital DigiQ Temperature Control
- Big Green Egg
- Broil King Keg
- Grill Dome Infinity Series
Note: Clicking the above links will take you to further information, current prices and customer reviews on Amazon.
Contents (Jump to Topic)
- 1 Best Kamado Grills – Product Roundup and Mini-Reviews
- 1.1 Top Pick – Kamado Joe Classic III
- 1.2 Runner Up – Primo Oval Ceramic Grill
- 1.3 Best High End – Komodo Kamado
- 1.4 Weber Summit Charcoal Grill
- 1.5 BBQ Guru Monolith Ceramic Grill with Digital DigiQ Temperature Control
- 1.6 Big Green Egg
- 1.7 Broil King Keg 5000 Barbecue Grill
- 1.8 Grill Dome Infinity Series
- 2 Buying Guide – Features to Look for in a Good Kamado Grill
- 3 What is a Kamado Grill? – The History of The Kamado
- 4 How Does a Kamado Grill Work?
- 5 What’s So Great About a Kamado?
- 6 Are There Any Drawbacks?
- 7 Conclusion
Best Kamado Grills – Product Roundup and Mini-Reviews
Now that we’ve taken care of the general overview let’s get down and dirty with a few choice grills in our best kamado grill review section.
Top Pick – Kamado Joe Classic III
If your primary concern about making the switch to a Kamado grill is giving up the traditional barbecue experience for a life of slow-roasted ribs and brisket (which really doesn’t sound like such a bad life…), then set your mind at ease with the first grill on our list, one that also appears in our list of top backyard charcoal grills.
Our top recommendation for best Kamado grill, that has the best mix of innovative features, versatility, and effective cooking for a good price is the Kamado Joe Classic III.
Kamado Joe has made a name for itself in a market that’s been primarily dominated by the Big Green Egg. While it may not be the original, it’s certainly innovative and has brought great vision to the market.
The Kamado Joe Classic III 18″ is the cornerstone of the company’s lineup, which also includes the Big Joe III 24” and the Joe Jr.
One of the great things about this product is that they graciously include several handy extras:
- Heavy duty, rolling galvanized steel cart
- Divide and conquer system (for creating different grilling and temperature zones)
- Harvard University designed, patented slo-roller system for low n slow smoking
- Ash tool and grate gripper tool for lifting out the hot cooking grate
- Flip-up side tables.
You can forgo cart, however, if you want to go with a larger table on which to set up. In this case, you buy a ‘standalone unit’ and a table on which to sit the grill in.
This is a very well constructed unit, made of high-fired ceramic with a porcelain glaze. The Classic III is rather thick, so the outside should stay reasonably cool to the touch during cooking.
I said the Classic III was innovative, and I meant it. There’s been a redesign since the version II, and a great grill is now even greater.
Kamado lids are pretty heavy, but the Air Lift Hinge is a thing of beauty. No more slamming the lid shut by accident and risking damage with this grill – let go of the handle, and the lid stays where you leave it.
At the bottom of the grill you’ll find a pull out ash drawer, making the job of cleaning out the grill a piece of cake. And, so as not to leave out the middle, you’ll find a new self-activating stainless steel latch securing the lid, necessary to keep pressure on the fiberglass seals between the top and bottom halves of the ceramics.
The top vent isn’t the typical daisy wheel you see on many competitors. The Kontrol Tower (as it’s called) is a side venting chimney which provides even more control, as well as preventing rain from getting inside.
There are still plenty of V I and V II models available at the time of writing, and you shouldn’t hesitate to pick one up, especially if you score a good deal. They were always excellent grills and still are, even before the new enhancements.
However, the specs and advancements on the V III really make it stand head and shoulders above.
It measures 46.5″ W x 50.5″ H x 30″ D and weighs a whopping 262.6 lbs. With the now 3-tier divide and conquer cooking system, you can purchase extra sets of grates and increase the cooking space 510 sq. in., while it has a cooking temperature range of between 225 and 750 degrees Fahrenheit.
The Slo-Roller aims to make the Kamado Joe the worlds most optimal smoker. It creates re-circulating waves of heat and smoke that surround the food being cooked, so all of it is evenly subjected to smokey goodness and heat with no hot or cold spots, so it cooks most evenly and attains the best flavor.
This thing really is a thing a beauty (can you tell I’m a huge fan?)
- Thick ceramic construction
- Versatile grill makes up for moderate size
- Many accessories included, making it easy to use
- Innovative features, like the slo-roller and sliding ash tray
- Redesigned, including new hinge and top vent
- New design, metal side shelves
- Eye-catching red porcelain
- Pricey compared to other styles of grill.
No matter which size you go with, the Kamado Joe is an outstanding grill. This is certainly a recommended choice for those who want versatility when they grill, or anyone who just wants to impress the heck out of their friends.
Whether this is your first Kamado, or the next step up on the path to pitmaster, you’d be hard pressed to make a better choice.
This is the one this site owner, Mark, owns. And it is, in his opinion, the very best kamado grill on the market for the mix of features and price.
Note: We have a far more in depth, individual look at this model in our Kamado Joe Review.
Runner Up – Primo Oval Ceramic Grill
Anyone who is accustomed to a wide grill, such as a gas bbq, might be a little hesitant to start cooking in the round shape of typical Kamado grills.
Grill size may be limited, different heat zones difficult to achieve, and large cuts hard to accommodate. If these thoughts have been on your mind, the Primo Oval offers a solution.
As the name implies, this Kamado is oval shape rather than circular.
The extra width is great for accommodating a rack of ribs, and you can divvy up the charcoal in the firebox to create two distinct heat zones – high direct heat above the coals on one side, and indirect heat on the other – perfect for searing and then cooking indirect until done.
An American-made grill, the Primo Oval is a ceramic monster that weighs 250 pounds. However, you do get a cast-iron top vent and 300 square inches of cooking area included in that weight. Thinking 300 isn’t enough? No problem! The grill can be expanded with a rack system to 495 sq. in.
If you want to go bigger, Primo also offers a 400 square inch Oval XL, available in two versions, including a Jack Daniel’s special edition that would look great in the backyard. There’s also a smaller 210 square incher, and a traditional 18.5” round ceramic grill.
The reversible grills should have a long life expectancy, and the spring-loaded hinge makes lifting the hefty lid a simpler chore than it might otherwise be. Their website offers some great tips on Kamado cooking for the neophytes, and if you really love the grill you can order Primo-branded gear to wear while you cook.
Although this has every appearance of being a high-quality Kamado, it unfortunately doesn’t come standard with many of the cool accessories available for it. Actually, it doesn’t come with anything, unless you buy the “All-in-One” package, which comes with a cart and cradle, fold-down side tables, an ash tool, and a grate lifter.
That expandable grill? Sold separately. Ditto the firebox divider. If you prefer to buy a la carte, then this won’t be a big deal, but it’s important to compare apples to apples if you’re price shopping.
- Heavy-duty ceramic
- Oval grill provides extra room for cooking
- Dual-sided grills for increased life-span
- Dividable firebox
- Leans towards the expensive side
- Really heavy
- Basic accessories not included, except in upgrade package
The Primo Oval LG 300 is a very good grill that should meet the needs of most outdoor chefs. I’d especially recommend it to people who love to cook ribs and other really big cuts of meat.
If flashy colors aren’t your thing, then you’ll also appreciate the subtle black enamel finish.
Best High End – Komodo Kamado
Now, if money isn’t an issue for you, if you just love grilling so much you’re willing to drop top dollar on a show-stopping Kamado, if you’d love to own the most amazing looking and brilliantly engineered product on the market, then the Komodo Kamado is for you.
And it’s incredible to look at! Who wouldn’t want this piece of art in their yard?
So yes, it’s likely the very best kamado grill in the world when it comes to engineering, build quality, functionality, good looks and wow factor.
The Komodo is the brainchild of Dennis Linkletter, grandson of TV personality Art Linkletter, who took over a small Kamado manufacturing company in Indonesia. His redesigned grills incorporate innovative function and breathtaking appearance.
The 23” Ultimate is the original Kamado, but it has been steadily improved since its debut 12 years ago, and they now have six different sizes, from a 16” table top, all the way up to a 42” beast.
There are now also 40 color variations shown on the website, made possible by the tiles applied to the outside with space-grade adhesive.
Inside of the 23” Ultimate, you’ll find 375 sq. in. of main grill, 274 sq. in. of upper grill, and 329 sq. in. of lower grill. That’s nearly 1000 sq. in. of cooking surface.
Lifting this beautiful monster is a team effort. By that, I mean an American football team because the total weight is 588 lbs.
All three supplied cooking grills are 3/8″ / 9mm 304 stainless steel – and they can be used in 4 cooking positions! The charcoal basket is also 1/4″ / 6.35 mm 304 stainless, the heat shield/ash screen is 3 mm 304 stainless, and many of the fittings and fixtures are also 304 stainless. All this quality material adds to the weight considerably.
And the body itself is a multi-layered, incredibly insulated grill, with the lid alone weighing 120 lbs.!
Fortunately, Komodo kamado designed a ‘self-opening’ hinge for the lid, that once you flip the latch, simply opens all on its own. And it’s easy to close. So don’t be put off by the weight, it couldn’t be easier to operate, regardless of your size and strength.
Every indication is that this is an incredibly well-engineered grill that uses only the best materials. And due to the quality of said materials and it’s extreme insulation, a 16 lb. bag of charcoal will burn for 85 hours at 235F. So by way of best in class fuel efficiency, you will save money every time you use this grill compared to other brands.
By the way, I have to mention that the 42” version called the Serious Big Bad weighs an estimated 1500 lbs. and costs over $9,000! Good thing there’s a monthly payment plan, so it could still be yours – And if you do buy one, please send me a picture.
- Incredible engineering, build quality and materials used
- Comes standard with three cooking grates, charcoal basket, drip pan, heat deflector, and side accessory plates, all in very thick 304 stainless steel.
- Rotisserie shaft system makes it rotisserie ready.
- ‘Temp controller’ (BBQ guru/Roks Stokker) ready, via the supplied faceplate
- Optional gas door assembly at the rear
- Food grade silicone seals
- Easy to open and close with a self-opening hinge and lid that takes the weight
- An amazing array of colors to choose from
- Will quite simply amaze your friends
- Very expensive
- Ridiculously heavy – which is actually a good thing, when you know why 😉
Who is this grill good for?
Anyone with extra money to burn, or the desire to fulfill the dream of owning the ultimate grill, will love this truly unique Kamado.
They are available from online retailers, but I’d stick with the manufacturer’s website if I were placing an order due to the special shipping requirements.
Weber Summit Charcoal Grill
The biggest deterrent for many grillers about charcoal is the somewhat laborious process of lighting the coals. Although a chimney starter is a great device for speeding up the process, there are still those resistant to giving up the push-button convenience of a gas barbeque.
Weber knows you love to grill, and they know you crave convenience, too. So, when they at long last entered the Kamado arena (just recently, in fact) they included a gas-fired igniter. A press of a button sparks the propane-powered igniter to life, and your charcoal should be roaring in minutes without fussing with an electric lighter, chimney, or starter cubes.
Interestingly, Weber makes no reference to Kamados on its website at all. They prefer to see this as a multi-function charcoal grill, and a natural evolution of their famous kettles. Indeed, it looks more like a traditional charcoal barbeque compared to other ceramic grills.
With a 24” diameter grill, there is plenty of available surface area for cooking, 452 sq. in., to be precise. Despite the large capacity, the Summit weighs in at a paltry 111 pounds – and that’s shipping weight. (Weber does not provide the weight of the grill online.)
Big and light? How is that possible? Well, this isn’t your traditional Kamado. It’s made of porcelain-enameled steel, without a trace of ceramic. In fact, the dual-wall kettle is air insulated, making it surprisingly lightweight, and yet an efficient holder of heat. Other parts are made of either stainless steel or aluminum.
There are many commendable features to be found on the Summit. The ash drawer is a nice, mess-resistant touch. The fuel grate can be put up for high temperature cooking, or dropped down for low-and-slow. You can even divide your fuel up to create dual temperature zones, which is the essence of good grilling.
- Trusted name in charcoal grills
- Easy to light
- Large cooking area
- Removable ash catcher
- Diffuser plate
- Heavy-duty hinge
- Weber is new to Kamado-style grills; quality is unproven
- Current Kamado-users may need an adjustment period to learn dampers
- Moderately pricey
I can readily imagine purists taking issue with the appearance and construction of this unit, and especially the gas ignition. It even comes with a measuring cup for (gasp!) briquettes.
Still, this is a remarkably versatile grill backed by the expertise of Weber. It’s priced similarly to a Big Green Egg, but may offer increased cooking options. A good choice for charcoal enthusiasts who want to step up, but keep familiar options.
Check out our Weber summit charcoal grill review for even more details.
BBQ Guru Monolith Ceramic Grill with Digital DigiQ Temperature Control
A lot of us regular guys and girls are not fortunate enough to be able to step out the back door and into an epic oasis of the type featured in barbeque advertisements. Given the typical tight confines of a standard backyard, it may be necessary to scale back one’s outdoor kitchen dreams. For example, I really don’t have room for both a smoker and a grill. But what if there was one device that could perform both tasks with aplomb?
Enter the Monolith.
I don’t know this for a fact, but I like to think the Monolith gets its name not just from being both large and solid, but also from being the catalyst of barbequing evolution, much like its namesake from 2001: A Space Odyssey.
Like most of the best Kamados, the Monolith is made of thick, heat-resistant ceramic with an enamel coating. There is nothing unique about its construction, or the way it cooks, by and large.
Like some of its competitors, it has a multi-level grill system that allows for expanded cooking. It even has a divided charcoal tray for multi-zone cooking – and it comes standard with each grill, which, as a frugal consumer, I appreciate.
What separates the Monolith from the pack is its versatility as a smoker.
Technically, all Kamados can smoke meat. However, the Monolith was designed with smoking aficionados in mind.
About 1/3 of the way down the main body of the Kamado, there’s an intriguing little knob. Pulling on the knob reveals a small pullout chute. This chute allows you to insert flavored chips or pellets directly on top of the charcoal without having to open the lid. The heat loss should be absolutely minimal, and the convenience is amazing. Such a simple innovation, but what a boon to smokers!
There are three sizes of Monolith available: Junior, Classic, and Le Chef. Junior has a 13” grill, stands 22.4” high, and weighs 97 lbs. Classic offers an 18” grill, measures 30.7” top to bottom, and comes in at 154 lbs. Le Chef is the big boy, with a 21.6” grill, standing 33.5” tall, and tipping the scales at 269 pounds.
All three units are available in either red or black, and come complete with many nice accessories, including deflector stones and stackable grids. You can order each unit as a standalone with ceramic feet (great for adding a heavy duty cart or table, which, of course, Monolith sells), or with a basic cart on wheels with two side tables.
The Monolith does not have a damper cap for the top vent, but neither do many Kamados, so this is a minor complaint. The biggest drawback may be lack of availability: the Monolith is German-made, and it could be challenging for anyone outside of the UK or EU to find this versatile cooker.
- Stainless steel hinge
- Size/color selection
- Divided charcoal basket
- Smoke pellet/chip feeder
- Standard accessories
- No damper cap
- May be hard to find in North America
Our readers in the U.K. who want the freedom to grill, bake, and smoke on a minimal footprint may want to consider picking up a Monolith of their own. Just beware of ape-men showing up in your yard brandishing discarded femurs.
Big Green Egg
Diving into unknown waters can be unnerving, whether we’re talking about trying something new, or literally plunging into foreign H2O.
While I don’t recommend the latter, new things can be great. But, when you really don’t know the territory it can be hard to make a choice. Sometimes the best bet is to go with the most popular and well-known option; surely, if so many people are talking about it, it’s gotta be half-decent, right?
You can’t Google “Kamado grills” without seeing a bunch of hits for the Big Green Egg. It really is the progenitor of the modern Kamado in the Western world. It even has its own special adherents: “eggheads,” the original fanboys of the Kamado niche.
Unlike many brands that are popular due to clever marketing, but that are actually inferior products, the Big Green Egg is a quality product. The ceramic is top-of-the-line, and both the top and bottom vents are carefully crafted for precision control of temps. The stainless steel grid should stay fresh with minimal care, and the porcelain exterior will remain shiny and green for years.
The BGE is available in seven different sizes: Mini, MiniMax, Small, Medium, Large, XLarge, and XXLarge.
Here is a quick run down of the dimensions:
- Mini – 10” grid; 79 sq. in. cooking area; 39 lbs.
- MiniMax – 13” grid; 133 sq. in. cooking area; 76 lbs.
- Small – 13” grid; 133 sq. in. cooking area; 80 lbs.
- Medium – 15” grid; 177 sq. in. cooking area; 114 lbs.
- Large – 18.25” grid; 262 sq. in. cooking area; 162 lbs.
- XLarge – 24” grid; 452 sq. in. cooking area; 219 lbs.
- XXLarge – 29” grid; 672 sq. in. cooking area; 424 lbs.
If you can’t find a size to suit your needs, well, your needs are pretty darn unique!
The XXLarge is perfect for any human octopus that wants to cook 35-40 burgers at once. Actually, the commercial applications are obvious with this bad boy, which can purportedly handle 14-16 whole chickens, 18-20 steaks, 20 racks of ribs, or one entire suckling pig.
For most of us, however, the Large may be the best choice for the typical, have-the-fam-over cookout.
My biggest complaint about the Egg is that when you buy one, that’s exactly what you get – one Big Green Egg. Carts, stacked grills, side tables, deflectors and other great accessories are all sold separately. That’s disappointing, considering they are included with many other Kamados.
I have seen several reports around the forums of people experiencing gasket breakdown on their BGE, but it is the most consumable part of any Kamado. Replacing the gasket is not difficult, and proper care (as in buying a cover) should extend the life and good looks of the entire unit.
- Best-known name in the industry
- Very well made
- 7 sizes to choose from
- Lots of accessories available
- Active community online
- Comes with minimal accessories
- Not much innovation over recent years
- Anecdotally inferior fittings
- Multi-zone cooking nearly impossible
- Pushes the affordability envelope
The Big Green Egg may have brought Kamado to the mainstream by being the first practical unit to market, but it has stayed there because it’s a quality product.
Broil King Keg 5000 Barbecue Grill
Let’s say, hypothetically, that I’m the kind of guy who really gets around a lot. By that I mean I like to go camping, or to the cottage, or tailgating, or all of the above. A ceramic grill has one very obvious drawback for a griller on the go: like the eggs they resemble, they crack when not treated carefully.
Broil King has the solution: metal. The inside is coated with ceramic, but the exterior is all steel. And rather than looking like an egg, it really does look like a keg.
Since the only thing better than a keg is a keg you can take with you, you can get the Keg 5000 with a cart with two sturdy wheels, and it comes standard with the ability to hook on to your trailer hitch with an available adaptor. That’s pure awesome.
The Keg is built very much like a standard oven, with insulation sandwiched between steel coated in enamel. Holding heat should be no bother for this grill. You’ll get 280 sq. in. of cooking space on the 19” cast iron grill. If that’s not sufficient, there’s also a secondary rack you can add on for more room for more meat. By the way, the whole thing is only 126 lbs.
Broil King is better known for their gas grills, offering just two Kamados. Still, a buyer can be confident in the manufacturer’s dedication to good grilling, and there is solid evidence of progressive improvement of their product over the years.
One of these amazing innovations is the addition of built-in bottle openers on the front handle. No, it won’t help the meat cook any better, but it does enhance the backyard grilling experience!
I have seen reports of cracked cast iron cooking grids, and that is an unfortunate drawback of cast iron. Knowing the material is inherently brittle, however, shouldn’t stop you from using it, because it’s a great surface for cooking. My advice? Don’t drop it!
- Suitable for moving around
- Locking lid
- Cast iron grid great for cooking
- Lighter than similar Kamados
- Leading name in barbeques
- Bottle openers!!
- Painted exterior may not weather as well as enamel
- Resin handles, tables, look “cheap”
- Cast iron grid can crack
The two best reasons to purchase this grill are for portability and for the price point. If you are absolutely going to travel with your Kamado, this is probably your best choice.
Grill Dome Infinity Series
I’m a practical guy, and sometimes I just want a quality product that I don’t have to think a lot about. I don’t always need the best and most expensive model, but I also don’t want to waste my money on a cheaper item that won’t perform like I want it to.
Somewhere in between there must surely be an option that’s made well, performs up to par, and won’t break my bank.
This is the niche (if slightly above average can be called a niche) that Grill Dome fills. The workmanship and material quality appears to be comparable to other well-reviewed Kamados, and the price is not heart-stopping.
Grill Dome touts itself as being the maker of superior quality Kamados – and they seem to be correct. The Kamado is somewhat thicker than other grills, at 1.25”, and all the requisite bits are there, like stackable grills (optional) and a heavy-duty hinge.
The top vent does not seem to offer as much fine-tuning as some others I’ve looked at. I’m sure after some practice, though, one would get the hang of it, and learn how best to set it for various cooking styles.
Other than a taller lid (for beer can chicken and piling on the grills) and the aforementioned thickness, there isn’t much about the Grill Dome that stands out as either truly noteworthy, or as a major concern. I do like the color options, however.
- Tall lid for stacked cooking
- Thicker walls for superior heat retention
- Color options
- Company has been selling Kamados since 1989
- Solid warranty
- World-wide distribution
- No real innovations to set it apart from competitors
The Grill Dome Infinity should be well-suited to anyone just entering the world of Kamados, but not wishing to choose just an entry-level grill. Won’t steer you wrong, but may not knock your socks off, either.
Buying Guide – Features to Look for in a Good Kamado Grill
As with any investment (and a Kamado is an investment, not a purchase), you’ll want to do your homework before you go out and plunk down your hard earned cash.
All Kamados are not created equal. But what distinguishes the good from the mediocre?
Here are some things to look for, and features you may wish to have.
As with every popular consumer good, once a product catches on, low-cost options suddenly appear. I’m all for saving money, but not if that means seriously compromising the quality of the item.
Low-cost Kamados may have thinner walls that will struggle to hold a constant temperature. The whole point of a Kamado is heat retention, so why would you want to give that up? Fit and finish may also be an issue on a cheaper model. Watch for low-grade metal fittings that might rust, and thin gaskets that may not seal tightly.
A small price tag might be appealing, but a more expensive, better-built unit will pay off in the long run by lasting longer and providing a better cooking experience.
Although not necessary, I couldn’t imagine having a grill without somewhere to set my utensils, my sauces and seasonings, and, in the summer, my frosty beverage.
Personally, I’d be shopping for a model with attached work surfaces. The other option is to buy a table or large stand to place the Kamado on. Most manufacturers offer carts and tables custom made to fit their grills.
Most Kamados are either made of ceramic, or stainless steel (usually coated in enamel). Oh, and there is one cast aluminum model on the market.
What material you choose is up to you, and they all have their pros and cons.
I lean towards the ceramic – the material seems to hold its heat a little better, and of course there’s no chance of rust. However, if you think you might move yours around a lot, you may prefer a metal Kamado because they are far less likely to crack if dropped.
Many different sizes of Kamado are available from pint-size to grill almighty.
The average model has less square inches cooking surface than the average gas or charcoal barbeque. Make sure to choose a unit that has enough space for your needs.
If you want to cook big racks of ribs, or feed the extended family in one sitting, you’ll need a big model. But if you’re just looking to serve your wife and kids, or a few buddies, a smaller cooker may suffice.
Withstanding the Elements
Grills generally stay outside year-round, so look for rust-resistant fit and finish to prolong the life of your Kamado.
You should probably think about a cover, too, to keep water from getting in the top vent.
Part of the fun of a Kamado is its versatility. You’ll be amazed at the add-ons available for most models, from stacking grills, to skillets, pizza stones, rotisseries, and more. Beyond the cooking surface there’s also ash baskets and rakes, carts, and more.
Some manufacturers include more of this stuff than others do. Before settling on one Kamado over another, check to see what extras come included, and which you’ll need to purchase separately.
If the only difference between two grills is cost, you may find that difference is erased or even reversed by the time you pick out the bits and pieces you’ll want and need.
Warranty and Customer Service
Anything can break, and ceramics are especially at risk for cracks and chips. There are also parts that can wear, like hinges and seals, and then there are all the bits and pieces inside.
Look for a warranty that provides good, comprehensive coverage; some companies offer a lifetime of coverage, and some offer little or none.
It’s impossible to know precisely what a manufacturer’s customer service is like until you have to put it to the test. What you can do is check to see what kind of responses people get when they post questions online.
Look for social media posts, or a feedback section on the manufacturer’s website to gauge what dealing with them might be like.
Previous Buyer’s Opinions
If you have friends with Kamados, chat with them to see what their experiences have been. Has it lived up to expectations? Would you buy it again?
Check around online, too. There are plenty of Kamado grill forums, and you can read reviews from owners. Company websites might give you some insight, too. Of course, you’re already here, so the easiest thing to do is just to keep reading and find a lot of info all in one place, rather than combing the Internet all day.
Ah yes, the all-important budget.
It’s good to have a dollar figure in mind that you’re comfortable with and to try to stick with it. Be realistic, though; a good Kamado is not inexpensive, though prices range from around $300 for a lower quality product up to many thousands of dollars for the biggest and fanciest models.
Consider what you get for your money, and how long you hope to have the grill for. To my mind, it’s always better to stretch the budget to get a quality product that will last a long time, if stretching will make the difference. Better to buy a high-quality grill once, than to replace a low-cost unit every couple of years.
What is a Kamado Grill? – The History of The Kamado
A Kamado grill, for the uninitiated, is both the latest revolution in barbequing and just about the oldest form of outdoor cooking other than sticking things right in the fire.
Wait, a what? A Kamado? Isn’t that the huge lizard that eats hoofed mammals? Close, but that’s a Komodo.
In fact, Kamado-like ovens have been around for several millennia. There is some disagreement as to the exact timeline, but here are the basics in a nutshell.
A type of clay cooking vessel developed in China made its way to Japan. Over time, the Japanese adapted it to become a first-rate rice cooker, and they called it “mushikamado.” It’s not unlike its cousin, the tandoori oven, and the two may have shared roots. It is also possible the Japanese deliberately incorporated tandoori technology in their cookers. By the way, “kamado” translates to “cooking range,” or, “stove.”
We’ll skip ahead now to the 1940s. American soldiers stationed in Japan brought home souvenirs from their deployment, including hibachis and Kamados. The American contribution to the development of the Kamado was to adapt it to grilling rather than cooking rice. Some clever folks added the lid and hinges, plus the ability to control the airflow.
An Atlanta, Georgia importer began stocking Kamados in the early 1970s, and his personal improvements, including switching from clay to ceramic, led to the creation of the Big Green Egg. The Egg dominated the industry for years, but now many grill makers offer their own takes on the Kamado.
Whew! That turned out to be a pretty big nutshell!
How Does a Kamado Grill Work?
Kamados are distinctively egg-shaped and very easy to recognize. Typically, the cooking vessel sits on a stand, though more traditional-looking tables are available. Some may feature work surfaces attached to the outside of the grill.
The lower two-thirds of the Kamado is where the coals burn beneath the grill. The top section is a domed lid, usually with a thermometer built in. There are vents at the top and bottom, which when used correctly, regulate the temperature.
A good Kamado seals tightly when the lid is closed, and the interior is designed and built to reflect the heat evenly around the interior. Ceramic is the most commonly used material, though metal models are also available.
Rather than using briquettes, they work best with lumpwood charcoal. (There are some who swear up and down that briquettes work just fine, however.)
For smoking, you can add big hunks of wood to your charcoal. The fire sits near the bottom of the cooker on a small grate above the firebox. Air flows in from the bottom, and ash falls into an ash catcher.
A fire ring sits above the smoldering coals, upon which the grill rests. Various accessories can also be placed on the fire ring, but we’ll come back to those later.
As mentioned before, the grill is at the top of the lower section of the Kamado. The upper section is the hinged lid, and the adjustable top vent caps the whole thing.
What’s So Great About a Kamado?
A cursory look at Kamados reveals a price range from about 150 bucks for a small, entry level cooker to $4500 for an XXL top of the range model. The bulk of the selection seems to fall roughly in the $750-$1300 range, however.
Regardless, that’s a fair chunk of change considering you can pick up little charcoal grills for about the price of a case of beer, or an electric smoker for a couple of hundred bucks! So what makes a Kamado worth the splurge?
First of all, as I said before, this is an investment. They are a finely crafted piece of cooking equipment, and it will last for years and years, so long as you keep up with the minimal maintenance required.
Secondly, the cooking experience is second to none. Most grillers, once they go Kamado, never go back. This is more than a hot surface for searing steaks and barbequing burgers. They provide versatility galore.
For example, because of the precise control you have over the airflow, with a little practice you’ll learn how to hold a desired temperature for as long as you need.
“Low and slow” cooking of meats like brisket and ribs is a piece of cake on a Kamado. But, if you like your outdoor cooker to act more like a solar flare, you can open the vents wide and watch the thermometer rise and rise and rise! High heat is perfect for searing steaks. You can also bake, roast and cook pizza on a kamado, as we discuss further in our guide to using a kamado grill.
Another significant advantage of a Kamado is its ability to cook evenly because of the reflected heat.
Ever tried to make pizza on a bbq? It’s challenging and requires constant attention, and you’ll probably end up eating a lot of burnt pizza before you perfect your technique. The even heating of a Kamado makes it an ideal outdoor pizza oven, or you could try baking bread.
Are There Any Drawbacks?
That’s a great question, and I’m glad you asked! While a Kamado offers superior outdoor cooking in many ways, there are some limitations and a few downsides.
The most obvious issue with many Kamado grills is the size.
A lot of units offer relatively small cooking surfaces. You may find yourself cooking in rounds in order to get everyone fed.
If you plan on cooking for groups regularly, look for a larger grill. They come in many different sizes, from portable to massive. Be sure to pick the size that best suits your needs.
Lack of Different Heat Zones
Many people utilize multiple heat zones when barbequing. In most cases, you toss the meat onto direct heat to sear it and get those lovely grill marks, and then move it to an area of indirect heat to finish cooking.
Kamados are great for creating even heat all over, which means there is only one temperature zone. Fortunately, it’s possible in many models to fit special inserts to create an indirect heat zone.
Most Kamados are very heavy and difficult to carry around. A good size cooker is going to weigh 150 pounds or more.
Be sure to invest in a stand with sturdy casters if you plan on moving your grill around the yard. Also be aware that as they are ceramic, they will almost certainly crack if dropped.
The Learning Curve
A Kamado can work up to extremely high temps with ease. That’s awesome for searing but useless for cooking anything thicker than half an inch, or so.
You’ll need to spend time learning the vent system to master temperature control.
Some folks feel Kamados are only suited for smoking and slow cooking, but I do not agree. There’s a bit of a learning curve, but the versatility more than makes up for the time it takes to master this unique style of cooker.
Did you ever see the movie Backdraft? Of course not, nobody did. But, maybe you know it’s about the way that fire can suddenly flare up when it’s starved for oxygen, and a new source of O2 is introduced?
On the scale of a burning house, it’s downright deadly. For a barbeque, it’s more of a potentially dangerous nuisance.
A Kamado can keep its heat in part due to the tight seal between the lid and the main body. If you close all the vents, the burning charcoal will soon use up the supply of oxygen. Should you open the lid to have a peek before the coals are completely extinguished, you run the risk of a nasty flare up.
Don’t believe me? Have a look at this video.
If you weren’t sure a Kamado was right for you before you started this article, I hope you have found the answer. They are a unique and versatile style of outdoor cooker, and the right one will provide years of enjoyment and mouth-watering food.
You’re only limited by your imagination, and if you like all kinds of food, you’ll never get bored of your Kamado. Yes, they cost a bit more than the average barbeque, but I think they’re worth the investment.
All of the grills listed above will do the job and do it well, but, to my mind, there’s a clear choice for the top recommendation.
The Kamado Joe ties up useful accessories, innovative features, quality workmanship, and a great community of support in one neat package. You really can’t go wrong with this remarkable product, and I’m confident you’ll love cooking on it.
Whichever model you choose, I hope you soon find yourself making the kinds of meals you thought could only be made by professionals.
Got a favorite Kamado meal, or a story to share? Drop a comment below and share with the world!